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How Could My Academic Performance Impact My Financial Aid Award?

Parrish Hall on the campus of Swarthmore College

Financial aid funds can be jeopardized if students do not make satisfactory academic progress, or if they withdraw from college altogether.

Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP)

Effective July 1, 2011, Satisfactory Academic Progress as monitored by Swarthmore’s Committee on Academic Requirements meets the standards mandated by the U.S. Department of Education for federal Title IV funds. Federal Title IV aid programs include:

  • Federal Pell Grant
  • Federal Work-Study (FWS)
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG)
  • Federal Perkins Loan
  • Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan
  • Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS)
Satisfactory Academic Progress and the Committee on Academic Requirements (CAR)

The Committee on Academic Requirements (CAR) meets in December to review faculty alerts for those students who are already known to be failing or will have more than one incomplete grade. The CAR also meets in January and June to review student progress during the previous semester. A student’s record is reviewed by the CAR if any of the following are true:

  1. The student received two or more grades of C- or below or the student’s cumulative GPA is below 2.0.(qualitative).
  2. The student has two or more grades of incomplete (quantitative and pace). The student will be required to withdraw until they receive a grade for the courses that were marked incomplete.
  3. The student earned less than three credits for the semester or less than six credits for the academic year (quantitative and pace).
  4. The student is not making progress toward graduation (pace). Progress toward graduation is defined as earning at least six credits by the end of the first year, at least 14 credits by the end of the second year and at least 22 credits by the end of the third year.
  5. The student was given a warning or probation after the last semester of the CAR review, or is returning from time away from college.
  6. The student does not have a declared major at the end of the third year.
Financial Aid Warning

Students who receive federal financial aid will receive financial aid warnings if they were in good standing previously, and have since received warnings or been put on academic probation for the following semester by the CAR.

Students receive notification of the financial aid warning via email from the Financial Aid Office. In addition, the Dean sends students a letter that outlines the standards that must be met in order to regain good standing. Those standards usually are an academic plan that requires students to earn a C or better in four courses, and to meet regularly with the class Dean.

Financial Aid Probation

Students who received a financial aid warning and do not meet the stated requirements at the end of the semester are no longer eligible for federal Title IV financial aid. If students are granted continued probation by the CAR, they may appeal to the Associate Director of Financial Aid for a semester of financial aid probation. The appeal should specify the reasons why satisfactory academic progress was not made (such as health issues, family crises, or other special circumstances) and the changes that have taken place that insure that students can make satisfactory progress in the upcoming semester. Students are required to earn a C or better in four courses during the semester of financial aid probation.

Required Withdrawal

One possible outcome of the CAR is that students may be asked to withdraw from the College. Please see Section 8.5.3 of the Swarthmore Course Catalog  for the procedures to return to the College.

Re-establish Federal Financial Aid Eligibility

Students who are required to withdraw may apply for readmission by writing to the Dean of Students following the procedures found in Section 8.5.3 of the Swarthmore Course Catalog. The Evaluation committee may approve readmission and federal financial aid eligibility. Students will be on academic and financial aid probation during their first semester back at Swarthmore.

Maximum Time Frame

If students’ attempted credits exceed 48 credits, they is no longer eligible for federal student aid (maximum time frame). Because of the standards of progress outlined on this page, this would rarely occur at Swarthmore College.

GPA and Credit Policies

The Policies section of the Registrar’s website includes helpful information about policies that relate to items including:

  • GPA calculation explanation
  • Repeat course policy
  • Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) policy: A course taken CR/NC counts as an attempted credit and a grade of CR counts as a credit earned. CR and NC grades are not included in the GPA calculation. Regarding first semester and shadow grades, the only grades recorded on a student’s official grade record for courses taken during the first semester of the first year are CR and NC. First-semester students receive written evaluations and grade equivalents from their instructors, also called shadow grades. The CAR reviews shadow grades to identify students who may be experiencing academic difficulty.

Transfer credits or approved credits earned elsewhere are counted as attempted and earned credits, but they are not included in the GPA calculation.

Regarding withdrawals, a grade of W counts as an attempted credit (not an earned credit), and will not be included in the GPA calculation.

Advanced Placement (AP) credits do not count as attempted credits, and are not included in the GPA calculation. AP credits are counted to determine progress toward graduation.

Return of Title IV Funds

Students who completely withdraw or arrange with the Dean’s Office for a Leave of Absence from the College during a semester and who receive Federal Title IV financial aid (Federal Pell Grant, Federal SEOG, or a Federal Direct Loan) for that semester are subject to the U.S. Department of Education’s Return of Title IV Funds Calculation. The calculation determines, based on the student’s date of withdrawal, if any of the Federal Title IV financial aid funds must be returned by the College or by the student. Federal Title IV funds are returned in the following order: Unsubsidized Direct Loan, Subsidized Direct Loan, Direct PLUS, Federal Pell Grant and Federal SEOG.

Date of Withdrawal

The student’s date of withdrawal is determined by the Dean’s Office, and is communicated to the Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Office determines the percentage of the payment period (semester) that was completed based on the withdrawal date. If the percentage of the payment period is 60% or less, then the calculation determines the percent of federal aid earned. Students who remain enrolled through more than 60% of the payment period (semester) are considered to have earned 100% of the Federal Aid received, and no Return of Title IV aid is required.

How Return of Title IV Funds is Calculated

If Title IV Funds must be returned to the U.S. Department of Education, the amount is calculated using the following formula: (100% - percent earned (days of the semester enrolled by the student) x the amount of aid disbursed toward institutional charges (Tuition, Activity Fee, Room, and Board).

Who is Responsible for Repaying Title IV Funds?

The Financial Aid Office follows the Return of Title IV funds regulations in order to determine whether the College or the student must return Title IV Funds. The funds must be returned by either the College or the student within 45 days of the determined date of withdrawal. The Financial Aid Office will notify the student, within 30 days of their determined date of withdrawal, if they must repay any part of the Federal Title IV funds they received. The student must repay the funds within 45 days of notification from the College in order to be eligible for Federal Title IV funds in the future. Federal regulations state that  the College is required to report the student to the NSLDS (National Student Loan Data System) if the student does not repay the required funds in full, does not enter into a repayment agreement with the College, or fails to meet the terms of the repayment agreement with the College.

How it Works at Swarthmore

The College, upon a student’s withdrawal or leave, may reduce some institutional charges (determined by the student’s date of withdrawal/leave). This may leave the student with aid that exceeds their adjusted institutional charges, which would be reflected as a temporary credit on the student account.

A student may be required to return Federal Title IV program funds if the amount of the temporary credit on their student account does not equal or exceed the amount required to be returned to the Federal government.

Example: Judy withdraws/takes a leave in the middle of the semester before the 60% mark. Swarthmore reduces her charges, and in doing so, her student account results in a credit balance of $500.00. Judy’s Return to Title IV calculation indicates that an amount of $700.00 must be returned to the federal government. In this case, the credit balance would become $0.00, and the College would assess an additional $200.00 to Judy’s student account, which she will now owe to Swarthmore. Swarthmore then returns $700.00 to satisfy the Return to Title IV requirement. In order for Judy to be eligible for federal funds in the future, she must repay the $200.00 to Swarthmore College.

Swarthmore College funds are reduced based on the reduction of Swarthmore College direct charges as per the College’s Withdrawal (refund) Policy.  State and outside grants will be refunded based on the policies of those organizations.

A student may be eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement of federal aid funds if the student withdrew before the federal aid funds were disbursed to their student account.  At Swarthmore, this normally occurs when a student has not completed federal verification. The student will be notified and given the opportunity to complete the needed documentation within 45 days of determined date of withdrawal.  If Federal Direct Loan funds are eligible for a post-withdrawal disbursement, the Financial Aid Office will notify the student or the parent in the case of a Federal PLUS within 30 days of the determined withdrawal date. The student or parent will then need to respond to the Financial Aid Office within 15 days instructing the Financial Aid Office to disburse the loan funds. The student may be advised by the Financial Aid Office that it may be to their benefit not to accept their Federal aid in order to maintain future eligibility.  The College will disburse automatically further Federal Title IV grant aid unless given written direction otherwise from the student.